Nutrition is so important on the trail. Of course it is more difficult to get your fruits and vegetables because they are heavy, but even getting enough calories can be difficult. I think because we put together our meals, the nutrition balance that I am getting is much better than most. I actually have vegetables in most meals, while others are subsisting on ramen. There is not much nutrition in ramen, even though it is light weight. My food is most definitely heavier, but also more nutritionally dense as well.
Protein is an important ingredient in a hiker’s diet. Foil packages of tuna and chicken and energy bars are staples. Protein is slower burning which is important. If a hiker doesn’t get enough calories they lose too much weight. Eventually their body will look for more energy stores and will start eating muscle. I have heard that the first muscle to be gone after is the heart. That doesn’t sound good. A way to tell if your body is starting to eat it’s muscle is that your clothes start to smell like ammonia. Interesting. My clothes smell like sweat, so I’m okay yet. I have lost about 20 pounds, but it was weight that I could afford to lose. I am now to my college racing weight. I do need to make sure though that I am eating well because I don’t want to lose too much more. Another 10 pounds and I would need to get off the trail.
I think that poor nutrition or losing too much weight will be a reason that people will get off the trail now. Some guys have lost 30-50 pounds. It is said that the guys look like prison camp victims and the girls look like fashion models by the end. I can say that there are some guys that already look like they are not doing well.
This is something that has been on my mind recently and I am trying my best to eat a lot when I get into town. Part of it that is hard is that more food means more weight to carry. Which in turn burns more calories. 🙂 The heaviest foods always get eaten first!